The following is a post I posted at CBMW.
I wrote this short letter as I prepared to officiate my first wedding earlier this summer. As I wrote, I realized that I was writing not just for them but for numerous couples I knew and cared about who were also about to enter into marriage together. This letter is for them and for many others who want their marriage to count for eternity.
Dear Engaged Couple,
As you prepare to embark on this life-long journey together, I thought I would share a brief word of wisdom. As you know, getting married is serious business. Jesus says that marriage is the joining of two individuals by God (Mark 10:8-9). When you get married, you are entering a covenant with each other, and with God, pledging your lives to one another regardless of the circumstances that you will inevitably encounter.
While many couples choose to write their own vows, I prefer the old marriage vows because they capture something of this covenant commitment that I think is very important. We are so conditioned in Western culture to think in terms of fairy tale endings and that often encompasses our hopes for marriage as well. The vows remind us that not only does God give wonderful blessings and gifts in marriage, but that he also allows us to walk through difficulty and heartache for our own good and his glory.
However, we often find ways to push thoughts of difficulty to the side and focus instead on the fairy tale marriage we envision for ourselves. It could go something like this. You’ll get married. Enjoy a loving relationship with your spouse for a few years. Then you will have kids—smart, athletic, good-looking kids at that. These kids will excel at sports, or ballet, or piano, or in whatever ways they are uniquely gifted. You and/or your spouse will enjoy careers that allow you to pursue your passions and interests, even achieving a certain degree of success along the way. You will live in a thriving community with good friends. You will grow closer together in the process, heading out on nice vacations to mark important milestones, and drinking deeply of the goodness of life. And of course, you will be able to earn enough money to send your kids to good schools and retire comfortably. When you are old and gray, you will die peacefully in your sleep with your family gathered around. This, or a version like it, is the fairy tale American life.